How Serious Are Poland’s Grand Strategic Disagreements With The US?
15 JUNE 2021
Few could have expected that one of America’s top allies anywhere in the world would so seriously disagree with its patron, but that’s exactly what happened after Polish officials publicly expressed deep concern over the US’ recent recalibration of relations with Russia, prompting observers to wonder exactly how far everything will go and towards what ultimate ends.
Poland is widely regarded as one of America’s top allies anywhere in the world and with good reason considering that it’s marched in lockstep with its patron ever since the end of communism in 1989 with only a single exception. That was the Obama-era “Reset” with Russia, which Poland regarded as a betrayal of its national security interests even though that policy eventually failed. History is once again repeating itself, however, after Polish officials publicly expressed deep concern over the Biden Administration’s recent recalibration of relations with Russia which some fear might be even more disastrous for their country’s national security than Obama’s plans to change the nature of the US’ missile defense shield in this geostrategically positioned Central & Eastern European (CEE) country.
Poland was surprised by the Biden Administration’s decision to waive most Nord Stream II sanctions last month, with different officials describing this move as a “threat” to energy security and even a “gas bomb placed under European integration”. Prime Minister Morawiecki very loudly condemned what he called the US’ “180-degree change of policy” towards Russia in an exclusive interview that he recently gave to Newsweek, which was followed by his Foreign Minister expressing deep “regret” over Biden’s refusal to meet with CEE leaders ahead of his summit with President Putin. The end result is that Poland is presently in a very serious geostrategic predicament after proverbially putting all of its eggs into the basket of Trump’s re-election. This was the culmination of a series of counterproductive policy calculations that I elaborated upon earlier in the month.
In summary, Poland’s practically pathological expression of “negative nationalism” vis-a-vis Russia was responsible for it obsessively doing everything in its power to undermine its Great Power neighbor in the contested “sphere of influence” between them in Belarus and Ukraine ever since 2013. This absolutely ruined relations with Russia and therefore made it impossible for Poland to take advantage of the opportunity to “balance” between East and West in pursuit of better deals from both of its neighbors. Instead, it eagerly submitted itself to the US’ regional strategic designs, only to have Biden pull the rug out from under its leaders’ feet in recent weeks as America once again pursued its own interests at Poland’s expense. I forecast the larger consequences of this for Eurasia in my latest analysis for the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).
It also deserves mentioning that the Polish leadership’s conservative-nationalist worldview is the ideological opposite of the present American’s liberal-globalist one, a point that was further emphasized in Morawiecki’s interview where he envisioned a “Europe of homelands” instead of the “United States of Europe” that the US is nowadays more in favor of. Although this prompted an RT contributor to wonder whether a “Polexit” might be in the cards sometime later this decade if the ideological contradiction between Warsaw and EU-leader Berlin isn’t resolved soon enough, it’s highly unlikely that anything of the sort will ever transpire because the CEE leader immensely benefits from the bloc’s free movement of goods, services, and people. Rather, it’s much more likely that Poland might seek to turn its “Three Seas Initiative” into less of a complement to the European project like Morawiecki told Newsweek that it is and more of an intra-organizational ideological competitor.
It’s too early to say whether that’ll happen, but it’s already undeniable that Poland has suddenly become much more isolated on the European stage due both to its deliberately counterproductive policies towards Russia as well as the bloc’s leading members like Germany supporting the US’ pragmatic recalibration of relations with Moscow. Morawiecki also mentioned in his earlier cited interview that while he’s concerned about some of China’s growing influence, he nevertheless “believe(s) that competition is good and some competition coming from China—not the sort that is subsidized or where there is price dumping or industrial output via slave labor, but outside those abuses, competition is not bad for us. And we are open for the Chinese investments strengthening our intelligence competitive capacities and our abilities to defend vis-à-vis their attacks.” This suggests a possible economic pivot towards China if relations with the US can’t be repaired.
That said, the US probably isn’t going to ever abandon Poland and thus open up the possibility of it economically pivoting towards the People’s Republic. Biden will probably retain his country’s recently bolstered military presence in Poland or at the very least ensure that some robust NATO presence remains in order to symbolically reassure its leadership that the US hasn’t “sold it out to Russia” like they increasingly fear. At the same time, however, American pressure on Poland might increase, including through more covert US support for the German Hybrid War on Poland that’s seen Berlin back a rolling Color Revolution over the past few years which aims to replace its target’s conservative-nationalist government with liberal-globalist puppets.
With any improvement of relations with Russia being politically impossible especially in light of recent so-called “spy scandals” (one of which is arguably paranoid persecution of a genuine human rights activist), the only realistic policy option for Poland in the event of worsening ties with America (or at the very least growing mistrust and associated suspicion of its “ally’s” grand strategic motives vis-a-vis Russia) is to focus on accelerating the comprehensive expansion of ties with China. Poland is already China’s top partner in CEE by virtue of its enormous population, strong economy, and geostrategic position, so it wouldn’t be difficult in principle for Warsaw to strategically partner with Beijing if the political will is present.
It should also be remembered that China is pioneering a high-speed railway from the Hungarian capital of Budapest to the Greek port of Pireaus which could even expand as far northwards as Warsaw and Helsinki by the end of the decade so the People’s Republic certainly has an interest in cultivating more strategic partnerships in CEE, especially with Poland. If Poland already believes (whether rightly or wrongly) that the US “sold it out to Russia” and that Washington might even soon throw more of its covert weight behind Berlin’s ongoing Hybrid War, then Warsaw wouldn’t really have anything to lose by at the very least beginning to seriously explore this policy proposal.
MORE EXPERT ANALYSIS:
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.